When the Knicks did their roster shuffling this offseason, a lot of people opined that the team was crazy to think that they could win with Jason Kidd as their point guard.
He'd lost two or three steps and was no longer the whirling dervish that bedeviled the Knicks for years when Kidd was playing in New Jersey, briefly lifting the Nets out of the laughingstock division. It became fodder for the forces crying over the loss of Jeremy Lin.
As it turns out, though, the Knicks don't have any interest in having Kidd play point guard for them this season. It's not clear how to exactly define the position he's playing, but it isn't point guard, it isn't shooting guard and it isn't really one that we've seen before.
Conductor might be the best word for the role that Kidd is playing these days as he stands above the three-point line, moving the ball to other players and making sure that the offense doesn't stagnate the way it has in past years. Ray Felton's the point guard and Ronnie Brewer's moving and cutting, leaving Kidd to direct traffic while sitting Yoda-like over the whole Knicks package.
Give credit to Mike Woodson for figuring out how well this works and how little the Knicks can afford to play such a limited player in a major role. Kidd does his thing for a bit, gives way to the more dynamic J.R. Smith, and then returns to do his thing for a little bit longer before Smith closes out the game.
The great thing about watching Kidd play is that he's smart enough to know that he isn't the player he once was while also possessing the knowledge of just when to exert the extra energy. On Friday night, the moment was in the third quarter when he stole the ball from O.J. Mayo twice and then drew a fourth foul that forced Mayo, who was shooting the lights out, out of the game.
From that point on, the game belonged to the Knicks and Kidd wasn't part of it much longer as he retired to the bench to watch the fun.
Kidd's contribution is sneaky, efficient and, for those used to watching Knicks teams that come up short in the brains department, smart basketball. Kidd's limitations are obvious, but 15 or 18 minutes of the play we've seen so far this season is going to be incredibly valuable over the course of the season.
Tempting though it may be to credit the sage presence of Kidd for Carmelo Anthony finally deciding to buy into a global approach to basketball, that's something of a stretch. Kidd's a stabilizing force and a player with a long history of winning, but anything Anthony does is on Anthony and on Anthony alone.
Seeing a crafty player maximize his abilities can't hurt, though. More talented players have to see the way Kidd wrings out everything he has left and those who care will understand that you can do that no matter where you are in your career trajectory.
That's a nice piece to have in your arsenal and it is one that has already paid dividends for the Knicks.